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Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

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AG MYERS CALLS FOR REFORMS TO INCREASE SAFETY AT SCHOOLS AND ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

September 6, 2007

Myers Joins Colleagues Across the Nation in Releasing National School and Campus Safety Task Force Report

Attorney General Hardy Myers today issued a call to federal and state leaders to address serious deficiencies in federal and state laws and educational policies that leave students vulnerable to violence in their schools and on college campuses.

As a member of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety, Myers released a 14-page report that includes specific recommendations that address threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders, and crisis response planning and communications.

"The goal of this report is to stimulate dialogue among policy makers, educational administrators, law enforcement professionals and others as they examine school and campus safety issues," Myers said. "With assistance from nationally recognized experts in the field of school and campus security, we have compiled a brief report that brings to focus a number of key issues that have surfaced as a result of the recent tragedy on the campus of Virginia Tech and eruptions of violence in schools across the country."

Recommendations from the Task Force include:

  • All schools and colleges should establish a system by which disturbing behavior is reported to an individual or multidisciplinary team of individuals with expertise and training in risk assessment who can assess the information received and put into action an appropriate response. Students, parents, faculty and other community stakeholders should be made aware of the reporting mechanism.
  • State and federal lawmakers should examine privacy laws in an effort to remove barriers to effective information sharing. Appropriate state and federal agencies should clarify how information, including mental health records, can be shared under existing state and federal laws.
  • States should modify or enhance state laws to ensure that all information relevant to federal firearms laws is shared with the National Instant Criminal Background System, especially as to individuals disqualified from purchasing or possessing firearms for mental health reasons. The U.S. Department of Justice should provide clear guidance to jurisdictions on the scope of relevant records.
  • State legislators should require that all schools and colleges that receive state funding create, maintain, and update emergency management plans.
  • Colleges should implement a multi-point, redundant communication system that leverages existing technology and provides information to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
  • Every school and college should have mechanisms in place to allow anonymous reporting of perceived threats by students or faculty. The system should include educational outreach and effective follow-up by trained professionals.
  • States should continue to implement and expand bullying prevention measures, including cyber bullying.

"This report is not designed to comprehensively address all of the issues related to school and campus security but to identify some of the policy and procedural weaknesses that impact the safety of our educational institutions and to recommend improvements," Myers said.

In 1999 a NAAG Task Force on Youth Violence and School Safety issued a report and recommendations in the wake of the violence at Columbine High School in Colorado and the earlier tragedy at Thurston High School in Springfield. The new Task Force, co-chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, was convened to determine what school and campus safety and violence issues have been brought into sharper focus as a result of the tragedy at Virginia Tech and to update the recommendations issued in 1999.

"I am deeply concerned about the ability of students to learn in an environment that is as secure as possible from the threat of violence," stated Myers. "Attorneys General are committed to making our nation's schools and campuses as safe as possible."

For a copy of the Task Force report and background information provided to the Task Force, visit www.doj.state.or.us.

Contact:

Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002
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